By AMOL SHARMA and JESSICA E. VASCELLARO (Wall Street Journal)
March 28, 2008; Page A1
Would you want other people to know, all day long, exactly where you are, right down to the street corner or restaurant?
Unsettling as that may sound to some, wireless carriers are betting that many of their customers do, and they’re rolling out services to make it possible.
Sprint Nextel Corp. has signed up hundreds of thousands of customers for a feature that shows them where their friends are with colored marks on a map viewable on their cellphone screens. Now, Verizon Wireless is gearing up to offer such a service in the next several weeks to its 65 million customers, people familiar with it say.
|WSJ’s Jessica Vascellaro tests out Loopt’s new buddy-tracking device to see whether it’s helpful for hooking up with friends or just another invasion of privacy.|
Making this people-tracking possible is that cellphones today come embedded with Global Positioning System technology. With it, carriers have already offered mapping features such as turn-by-turn driving instructions. But they long hesitated to offer another breakthrough made possible by GPS — tracking of cellphone users’ whereabouts in real time — because of privacy and liability concerns.
Now, increasingly, the wireless industry is deciding that location tracking has so much sales potential that it’s worth the risks, so long as tight safeguards are in place. It’s a result of the convergence of GPS with another digital phenomenon: a generation of young people who are comfortable sharing a great deal of personal information on social-networking Web sites and eager for still more ways to stay connected. The initial target market of location-tracking services: 18- to 24-year-olds.